The Grey Chronicles


Looking Without Seeing

Not counting our sixth one, which scientific experts are torn between caution or disbelief, we all have our five senses: sight, hear, taste, smell, and touch. Of these senses, words have been derived, developed or coined.

For all our senses, only our eyes are we able to see or look or our ears to hear and listen. Our tongue can taste a hundred different things: sweet, sour, salty or bitter, but we don’t have any word short of tasting, as our eyes and ear. What we lick, we also taste. Our nose can smell a million different odors, but we don’t have a word short of smelling. What we sniff, we smell. Even our sense of touch: what we touch, we feel.

The Guinness Encyclopedia (1990) states:

“Sight and hearing are the key senses, giving vital information about what is going in the world around us and allowing our bodies to react appropriately. The eye is the dominant sense organ. . . The sense of touch is primarily exploratory . . . responsible for alerting the brain to specific sensations—pressure, warmth, cold and pain. . . In humans, smell is relatively under-developed compared to other mammals. . . Taste is a complex sensation [which] can distinguish only four basic tastes—sweet, sour, salt or bitter—and nothing else.”

Our eyes and ears are importantly responsible for most of our thoughts, ideas, perception. Yet, sometimes, we are looking without seeing or we are hearing but not listening. What we see, although sometimes not possibly there, mirage or optical illusion; but most of the time with a clear balance of light and darkness, we could possibly discern what we are truly seeing. When we say something that we heard about, all we are doing is just repeating what we thought we heard someone say, which legally can be tantamount to hearsay.

Even our semantics are full of idiomatic expressions with respect to sight. For example: the most overused of them: seeing is believing, when we tend to only really believe what we experience personally. Writers and thinkers alike try to look ahead or review the past even though at times they are are not even so certain.

When someone or something that is a sight for sore eyes is a pleasure to see. If something is a sight to behold, we are seeing it is in some way special, either spectacularly beautiful or, equally, incredibly ugly or revolting, etc. We even describe people as if one seen better days, when he has aged badly and visibly compared to when he was young.

We might have a bird’s eye view to see perfectly; be blind as a bat when we can’t see anything; or see things in the cold light of day, when we see them as they really are, not as you might want them to be. When facing great odds, we are cautioned to look on the bright side to see things in an optimistic way, especially when something has already gone wrong; or look before you leap to think carefully about the possible results or consequences before doing something. In more recent times, we are warned to watch our six to look behind us for dangers coming that we can’t see.

Moreover, we sometimes are like none so blind as those who will not see when we refuse to accept facts presented to us and begin to see red, when we become very angry about something. In the end, when we see the light or realize the truth then we could see eye to eye, and agree about everything.

Covering our ears with our bare hands, sound could still get through. Pinching our noses, we can still have our sense of smell if our mouths are open. Wiping our tongue dry, we still taste blandness. Even wearing synthetic garments to deprive us of our sense of touch, it remains. Unfortunately, sight is the sense easily deceived. The things we see can easily be masked, making it disappear temporarily; or painting it over to hide it. If the sight to behold is to grotesque, aside from physically shielding our eyes, we can simply close them if not ignore them.

Similar to a corporate president inspecting a plant without bothering with the hidden nooks; an auditor ignoring the obvious faults; or the head of state disregarding the slums along the rails or the placards of protests along the picket lines; they are all guilty of looking without seeing!


Crofton, Ian [ed.] (1990). The Guinness Encyclopedia. Middlesex, U.K.: Guinness Publishing, 1990. p. 216-218. back to text

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